“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” Romans 14:7
“It is the Lord Jesus Christ who has come into the place of self, filling up its room. In turning from self we do not leave ourselves without an object to live for, or to die for: we get one infinitely more worthy than we possessed before. Instead of self we get the Son of God; the glorious one. He fills us, occupies us, engrosses us henceforth. He is all to us what self was before. He takes the place of self in everything from first to last, great or small. He is the Substitute for self, first of all, in the matter of our standing before God. As the first thing the Holy Spirit does is to set aside self, in the matter of justification and acceptance, so his next is to present to us the Son of God as the true ground of our acceptance. We no longer seek to be justified by self in any sense, or on account of anything done to self; on account of amended self, or improved self; or mortified self, but solely on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us and who rose again. Having taken him in the place of self, we find ourselves at once accepted of the Father, ‘accepted in the beloved,’ accepted, not because self has been improved, but because self has been set aside and the Son of God substituted in its room. And in this Son of God, whom we take as a substitute for self, in the matter of our acceptance, we find an object worth living for, an object that we can carry through everything, through every part of life, into every region of life. We make him our Alpha and Omega, our first and our last. On a sick-bed our object is, that Christ should be glorified whatever becomes of us. On a deathbed our desire is, that Christ should be magnified, and in all that may happen to our name after death, in anticipation either of good report or of bad report among men, our sole wish is, that the name of Christ should be exalted. Thus, in living and in dying, Christ is all. He has come in the room of self, and fills that room entirely. Our life is thus full of Christ, and so is our death; ‘Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: so that living or dying we are the Lord’s.’ You are not your own at any time, nor in any circumstances, but his, his only.
What solemnity is thus thrown over life! All its parts, all its movements, are now consecrated to the Lord. Up till the time when this substitution takes place our life is a wasted one, utterly thrown away. It is dedicated to self, just as some of Egypt’s magnificent temples of old were consecrated to the worship of some reptile. But now that self has been cast out, and Christ introduced, our life has become a sacred thing; every part of it is consecrated,—made ‘holy unto the Lord.’
What dignity this imparts, both to life and death! Let it be the life or death of the poorest, if he be a believing man, a man in Christ Jesus, what a dignity attaches to him; a dignity that attaches to no other being upon earth, not even to its mightiest kings. From the moment that he became a man in Christ Jesus, living not to himself but to Christ, all littleness vanished, all narrowness and meanness were gone, and in the place thereof grandeur, glory, and heavenly magnificence thrown around his person. What a change!
What importance now attaches to life! All triviality has passed out of it. It has now become an important thing either to live or to die. We have got something worth living for, and something worth dying for; and in circumstances such as these, there can be nothing unimportant about life. The end we live for, the end we speak for, the end we act for, raises life up to an importance which nothing else could have done. There can be nothing little now about anything that we think, speak, or do.
What an imperishable character is thus imparted to life! Everything we do, whether in living or in dying, becomes imperishable, now that we live unto the Lord and die unto the Lord. It was self formerly that ruined everything, that made everything connected with us to crumble down and waste away. But now it is entirely different. The Lord has come in to occupy the place of self. He is come in, who is ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,’ and he imparts his immortality to us, in all we are and do. Now nothing dies, but everything lives, and that for ever, for it is done unto the Lord. Every word spoken for him has an eternal being. Every action done for him carries its results forward into eternity; and every step we take, if taken for him, is a step whose effects are immortal, as is our being, and as is the being of him who has, by his oneness with us, attached to all we do his own imperishable character.
What an incentive to zeal this gives us! We have now got something to do that is really worth doing; an object worth living for and worth dying for. There is nothing so heartless as to have no object in life, or a poor object; and, on the contrary, there is nothing so quickening, so animating, as to have a worthy object. How mighty, then, must be the impulse, when we can feel that our life is a life to the Lord, that our death is a death to the Lord.
What a reason for consistency and holiness of life! Everything we do tells, not merely upon our comfort, on our earthly prospects, on our good name, but upon the glory of Christ. We have now become so connected with him that everything we speak or do bears upon him and his cause. The consistency of a holy life honours him, and brings a good report of him to our fellow-men. How watchful, then, ought we to be; how jealous over ourselves, lest self should assume the place that belongs only to the Lord; how anxious to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; how desirous that our life should be a consistent witness-bearing for Christ, that our light should shine before men!” Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 239–243. [Italics original.]